The first big gaffe of Britain's general election campaign was made by the Labour leader Gordon Brown when an open media microphone caught his description of a 67-year-old woman who had questioned him about immigration as a “sort of bigot”. Mr Brown recovered sufficiently to give a good account of himself in the last of three TV debates although instant polls showed that the Conservatives' David Cameron and Liberal Democrats' Nick Clegg had done better.

The spill from a damaged BP oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico was proving to be the worst for many years and likely to threaten oyster and shrimp farms on the Louisiana coast as well as wild life. BP said it might take a month to seal the well which had been damaged in an explosion that killed 17 workers.

Disagreements between Flemish and French politicians in Belgium led to the resignation of the government, but not before it passed legislation to ban the face-covering burqa worn by some Muslim women from public places.

As Greece's serious financial situation worsened there were still delays among potential donors to a massive eurozone/IMF loan because of doubts about the Greek government's ability to take the necessary economy measures on its side.